4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
(John 4:1-6 NIV)
As we begin chapter 4 of John’s Gospel, John provides the narrative and transition between the previous and present vignettes of Jesus’ life.
In the last scene, Jesus and John the Baptizer were in the same region, and some of John the Baptizer’s disciples had deserted him and gone to follow Jesus. John the Baptizer knew his role and told his remaining disciples that Jesus must increase while he must decrease. John knew the larger story was about Jesus, not about him. John the Baptizer was celebrating of Jesus’ ministry success, not bemoaning it.
Jesus and His disciples were somewhere in the southern part of Israel, in the Judean wilderness. As the Apostle John unfolds today’s story, we see Jesus moving on when He hears that the Pharisees are watching Him again. Jesus knew that the Pharisees misunderstood who John the Baptizer was, and they certainly had no clue who Jesus was. The Pharisees were a jealous bunch, and they wanted to control anything and everything around them. Jesus knew that His time on earth was not finished, so He avoided the controversy with the Pharisees and headed back north to Galilee (v. 3)
It is important to note that the Apostle John points out that Jesus’ disciples were the ones baptizing others, and not Jesus Himself (v. 2). John the Baptizer and Jesus’ disciples baptized with water; Jesus would ultimately baptize all believers with the Holy Spirit (Jesus’ words in Acts 1:5).
Jesus’ journey from Judea to Galilee took Him through Samaria, an area despised by most Judeans. In fact, some Judeans would go completely out of their way to avoid setting foot in Samaria. Jesus, however, did not have those same self-righteous hangups and took the shortest path from Judea to Galilee, which led straight through the middle of Samaria.
Jesus and His disciples stopped about noon at a well-known landmark, Jacob’s well. And thus the backdrop for the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, which we will begin tomorrow.
As we look at the Apostle John’s record of Jesus’ ministry, may we learn and practice much from this brief but compelling narrative.
Let us not compete in ministry, but complement and encourage one another as we all serve Christ. Remember, it’s not about us, but about Him.
May we not be self-righteous about who we do or don’t interact with, but instead, share the good news of Jesus and show His love to all who cross our path, even the “Samaritans” in our life.